Former Class Clowns in Cars Getting Coffee

Mock. Yeah. Ing. Yeah. Bird. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

You may be confused by what appear to be the incoherent ramblings of a madman. Rest assured, they have a meaning. They are the beginning lyrics to the song Mockingbird by Carly Simon, and hearing them brings back a rush of memories of some of the best times I’ve spent with my Dad.

The significance of this reimagined children’s song came from our tradition of taking drives together. We began this habit because we found that the best method for catching up when I would come home from college for a short visit was to take a long drive. We are both avid fans of lengthy car rides, so it seemed like they would be the best way to kill multiple mockingbirds (ok, I’ll stop) with one stone. Not only did the drives afford us the opportunity to drink coffee and talk about life while the beautiful scenery of Western New York whipped by our windows, but they also allowed us to find common ground through music.

The musical element of our drives came about one year into our tradition when the oldies were introduced. I always used to be visibly bothered by the “old” music that my Dad would play, but one day I decided to attempt to use music (a huge passion of his) to connect. So, like a martyr being ushered to their imminent demise, I began by downloading a collection of old songs to my phone.

That first playlist was rather painful to listen to. It included a slew of disco tracks and was a poor representation of my Dad’s musical tastes. But over time, and with his suggestions, I fine-tuned the list by adding and removing many songs. Before long, it was a common practice for me to play the songs I had discovered while we drove. He always had a way of naming the artist, song, and album that it originally appeared on within moments of the song starting, which is a feat that has not ceased to amaze me. I soon grew to love the songs that populated the playlist and saw that music was quickly becoming a shared passion.

Early on, the time between our favorite songs involved mostly me talking and him listening. But as time passed, I watched those moments even out as I talked less and listened more. I’ve recognized this as being an incredible part of growing up. You’re able to watch a parental relationship shift into something where you see them more as an equal adult rather than as someone whose primary purpose is to listen to you pour out your heart. The shift has been gradual, and I believe that the downtime between favorite songs played a pivotal role in making it happen.

Our drives together are far less frequent since I travel back to New York less and less, but that makes each one even more meaningful to me. We’ve drunk more mediocre Tim Hortons coffee and listened to more classic songs than I could ever count, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world, because some of my hardest conversations and most uplifting moments have taken place during those experiences.

Each time I think about that tradition, I think about how blessed I am to have a dad like mine. Our similarities go beyond our distinct “Case nose” in that we both tend to use humor to deflect our true feelings, over-analyze situations, and feel the need to get away when situations become too extroverted. We are similar in so many ways, but I wish that I was even more like him, which is why I strive every day to emulate his character traits that don’t come so easily to me. Namely, his ability to be the most humble, grace-filled, and insightful person I have ever met. He is one of the most exemplary people I know, and I couldn’t be prouder to call him my father.

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